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The Mentors Speak About the Pitch Wars Community

Tuesday, 14 June 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

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Mentors Speak about the Pitch Wars Community by

Joy McCullough-Carranza

If you know anything about PItchwars, you probably know it’s a great way to get your manuscript in front of a wonderful group of agents. You might understand that agent requests aside, it’s a wonderful way to improve your craft and strengthen your manuscript as you work with a mentor. But one of the best benefits of doing Pitchwars is the community you’ll find—and you can find that community whether you participate as a mentor, a mentee, or even an applicant who isn’t selected.

Recently in the Pitchwars super secret Facebook mentor hang-out, I asked the mentors to share the ways Pitchwars has had an impact on their lives, beyond the more concrete things like getting an agent or a book deal.

For myself, I can say that going into my fourth year mentoring Pitchwars, it has been one of the very brightest spots on what has been (and continues to be) a very long journey. I have made some of my best writing friends, from among the other mentors as well as my mentees-turned-CPs. I have learned a MASSIVE amount about the industry. I even queried my current agent because last year he requested all three of my Pitchwars mentees’ MG manuscripts, and I thought huh…I guess we might have similar tastes! And now he’s my perfect-fit agent.

So if you’re pondering whether or not it’s worth it to enter Pitchwars this year, browse through these responses and see the impact that submission could have on your life.

Joy McCullough


Joy McCullough-Carranza

Twitter | Website

Joy writes plays and children’s fiction. She has a degree in theater from Northwestern University. Her plays have been developed and produced in Seattle, San Diego, Chicago, and New York. She blogs (sporadically!) here and is also a part of the team blogging about middle grade books and writing at Project Mayhem.

Here’s what a number of other mentors had to say:

Mara Rae Rutherford

Twitter  |  Website

Pretty much my entire writing life as it stands today revolves around Pitch Wars. It’s how I got my agent, and where I met my CPs, my writer’s support group, and some of my best friends. I’ve learned so much from the other mentees and mentors that I didn’t know before PW, and I’m unquestionably a better writer for it.



Kelly Siskind

Kelly Siskind

Twitter  |  Website

I didn’t get into Pitch Wars the first year I applied. I wrote another book and the awesome Brighton Walsh picked me to be her mentee. My writing is better for it. I gained other CPs during that time and an invaluable community. I got my agent through regular querying after the contest, but I believe my work with Brighton took me there. I love this contest. I love paying it forward as a mentor.


Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 11.53.29 PMSonia Hartl

Twitter  |  Website

Having Dannie as my mentor means the world to me, she basically taught me everything I needed to know to take my writing to the next level. Our team was incredibly close and I still swap mss with her and Alexandra, who are both so talented and continue to teach and push me in new ways. I wouldn’t have an agent without PW, or be in my amazing writers support group (Clubhouse!). I also met some of my closest friend because of this contest, Jennifer, Kellye, and Rosey, who without I’d be lost. Not only have my skills as a writer grown, I also have this amazing community of friends who make this extremely hard business of writing worth doing.


Jenni Walsh

Twitter | Website

Pitch Wars has been a game-changer for me. I’m a mentor now but I began as a mentee back in 2014. I very distinctly remember telling my husband that if I was chosen, it could be the start of something great (finally). Turned out to be true. My Pitch Wars manuscript landed me my first agent. While that MS didn’t sell, working with my mentor and my former agent broadened my skill set and I wrote a new MS that led to my current agent and my first book deal. I honestly think my Pitch Wars experience as a mentee started it all and I love giving back as a mentor to hopefully start someone else on their journey toward their publishing goals.



Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.11.01 PMMary Ann Lemon Marlowe

Twitter  |  Website

I love this contest. I love the lead up to it with the crazy fanfare and friendly wars. I love the hope that it gives new writers and the way it leads them to discover community. I love that it helps some gifted writers level up, and for some lucky ones, land an agent. It’s a perpetual positive-energy generator.

When Jaime Loren picked me, I thought I’d struck gold, but I didn’t even know the half of it. Working with her was amazing, and I worked hard and loved the whole mentoring aspect. But then the mentees formed a private group, and for the past two years, that has been a lifeline for all of us, many times over. Writing is lonely, but publishing is lonely AND brutal. Having people to navigate those waters with has been invaluable.

I’ve made some of the best friends of my life through this contest. And while I didn’t get my agent through PW, I have no doubt that getting into this contest gave me confidence and skills that helped me get there faster than I would have without it.

When Brenda tapped me to be a mentor, it was seriously one of the best moments of my writing career. She was there. She saw me squeal like the next contestant on The Price is Right. Getting to be on this side of the contest has been amazing. I love having the opportunity to give back to a community that gave me so much. I adore Brenda. I am constantly in awe of her ability to handle everything she does with so much grace. It’s really an honor to be involved with such an amazing group of people.


Hello!Rachel Lynn Solomon

Twitter  | Website

I’ve met some of my closest writer friends and CPs through Pitch Wars, both people I’ve mentored, fellow mentors, and people who’ve submitted. Not to mention all the support as I was leaving my first agent. This community is really, really special.



Sp27RWlBSummer Spence

Twitter  |  Website

I am so FOREVER grateful for the Pitch Wars community and the opportunities it has given me. I was such a baby writer (lol still am, but I’m toddling now instead of army crawling) when the lovely Evelyn Skye chose me to be her mentee. I knew nothing about so many things. With her help, I revamped my book and went on to find an agent who I love. Because of Brenda, I now have a community of writers who offer me support and advice and love and it’s only because of that that I’m still going. Pitch Wars renewed my faith in my ability TO LEARN. Not only did it teach me about my craft, it taught me humility and grace through the examples of some amazing mentors and friends. I’m excited and inspired to write, and know I can face the challenges that come with breaking into this industry. All because of a contest that gave me everything. <3


twitter picMelyssa Mercado

Twitter  |  Website

Man, I have so much love for this contest and all you guys! Thanks to PitchWars, I’ve made CP and writer friends for life. I had an unbelievable mentor who inspired and encouraged me (even when I didn’t get a single request-I can’t tell you what that meant to me), and I met online cheerleaders that helped me believe I could actually do this thing–my writing dream thing.

Imagine if every aspect of our IRL environments were as supportive as this beautiful community? …’magine?



Katie BuckleinKatie Bucklein

Twitter  |  Website

Pitch Wars 2013 is when I first began to get involved in the book world and actively pursue publication. As a mentee in 2013, I began to grow my circle of writer friends and CPs, all of whom have helped me shape my writing in ways I never could have done on my own. Without that support, I don’t think I would have made it this far. And now, as a second year mentor, I’ve been able to see people I know, people I’ve helped, find successes in the book world, too. Some of my best friends are thanks to Pitch Wars, and I think that’s the most important part of the community: the people you meet and the experiences you have with them.


Michael MammayMike Mammay


I entered Pitchwars twice. When I entered in 2014, I didn’t get a single request. And that was the most important thing that ever happened to me as a writer. Because even though I didn’t get in, I met other writers, and I got honest feedback on my work for the first time, and all of a sudden I realized I didn’t know what I was doing. So I set out to fix that. I met three of the CPs I still have to this day (one is now published, another is on submission) and I swapped pages with anyone who would. I learned how to write. When I submitted my work to Pitchwars again in 2015, it was an infinitely better piece of work. I got picked by Dan Koboldt to be his mentee, and now we’re CPs. And I have a whole new writing family in the group of 2015 mentees. It’s full of support, and information, and turkey sandwiches. Okay, that last thing isn’t true. I’m just hungry because I missed lunch. But being part of the community is as awesome as having a turkey sandwich. And now, in 2016, I’m doing it again, this time as a co-mentor with Dan. And my agent (saying ‘my agent’ still hasn’t gotten old) is joining the contest, too. She was almost as excited about it as I am.


Tamara MatayaTamara Mataya

Twitter  |  Website





Kit FrickKit Frick

Twitter  |  Website

I entered PitchWars in 2015, and while I didn’t get in, I became close with 2 of the mentors — now I’m co-mentoring with one of them! We’ve all been through some ups and downs in the past year, and they’ve become my sounding boards for so many writerly things beyond the contest itself. I also connected with a whole bunch of the other 2015 entrants — both those who went on to become mentees and those who (like me) didn’t. The friends I made through PitchWars really helped me through the query trenches this past year, and I signed with my agent in March. It just goes to show how big an impact the contest can have — whether or not you get in! Either way, it’s all about the people and the support!


Brian Palmer

Twitter  |  Website

I’ve been a writer of one sort or another for over a decade, but thanks to Pitch Wars, for the first time I’m part of an actual community. I got matched with the perfect mentor–seriously, it could not have gone any more smoothly than it did (thanks, Holly Faur). I made friends with a number of fellow writers, got excited about others’ successes, found a critique partner, and learned how to be a better writer. The community is out of this world, and alone is worth taking the chance by submitting. Best of all though, I landed the perfect (for me) agent, so I feel very glad to have taken the leap and entered last year.

‪I happened across the contest completely by accident as I was checking out agents on Twitter (I was thinking of querying at the time), and once I got a greater sense of what was going on, I knew I had to enter. What was the worst thing that could happen anyway? If I waited a few weeks and didn’t get selected, I could go right into querying afterward. Call it delayed gratification, perhaps, but the entire experience could not have been more worth it. You never know what might happen, so you might as well try if you’re thinking about entering!

‪BIG thanks to Brenda Drake for setting up and running this mammoth of a show, because it is great and I know it’s not easy to pull off. Pitch Wars changed my writing life forever!


kip_avatarKip Rechea

Twitter  |  Website

PitchWars people are my people. Being a mentee in 2014 changed my life. Besides eventually getting an agent with my PW novel, I learned so much from my amazing (de)mentor, Sarah Guillory, I adore our 2014 mentee group, and I hope I can make a difference in someone else’s writing life this year.


Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 11.43.12 PMSusan Gray Pope Foster

Twitter  |  Website

Because of Pitch Wars, I’m a stronger writer, continually striving to improve, and I have an agent. My mentor (now co-mentor), Mónica Bustamente Wagner, became not only my incredible CP, but also a bff. I can’t imagine going through the journey toward publication without her and the most amazing Pitch Wars ’14 mentee group, who advise, cajole, inspire, commiserate, celebrate, and hold hands every step of the way. The entire Pitch Wars community has become my community. My writing and my life as a writer is immeasurably enriched because of Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars.


Ashley MartinAshley Martin

Twitter  |  Website

Having Pitch Wars as a goal pulled me out of the very nasty writing slump I was in. It gave me something to work toward, and helped reignite my passion for writing as I got caught up in the anticipation and excitement and connected with other writers. Most likely, I never would have finished my book without Pitch Wars driving me. It restored my confidence, and I came away with a much stronger story that eventually landed me my agent. And now I have an amazing family of people to walk this journey with me. I’d go insane if I didn’t have that support!


author picAmanda Rawson Hill

Twitter  |  Website

Pitch Wars gave me the things every writer dreams about and hopes to get out of a writing contest. A stronger manuscript, more writing skills/knowledge, an agent.

But it gave me far more than that, too. It gave me my first bit of outside confidence that I really could write. It gave me a community that I still engage in every day. It gave me fabulous CP’s and beta readers. It gave me mentors who are also friends. And beyond all that, it gave me the opportunity and blessing to be the recipient of pure goodwill and kindness where none had to be given. That’s the kind of experience that changes you. It was both very humbling and extremely motivating. I’ve never worked harder in my life and that skill alone, working my butt off in a short amount of time and being willing to totally revamp, reshape and rethink, is something that will serve me well in publishing. (It already has.) In short, Pitch Wars has been everything. I’m not sure I’d still be writing without it.


hiKristen Lepionka

Twitter  |  Website

Pitch Wars has been the best possible experience for me. With Kellye Garrett’s guidance as my mentor in 2015, my manuscript went through tons of changes that made it so much stronger than I even thought possible, and Kellye’s support (plus the company of the other mentees) gave me confidence in my writing that I didn’t have before, at all. Within three months of the 2015 agent round, I’d signed with my agent and happily accepted a deal for my Pitch Wars manuscript and its sequel. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t entered, and I am just thrilled to be able to help someone else out this year as a mentor!

Thank you, Joy, for putting this together. And thank you, mentors, for sharing your thoughts and love with the Pitch Wars community!






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We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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